(BPT) - Congratulations on your new puppy or kitten! Like babies, kittens and puppies have special nutritional needs. To help establish the foundation for a future of good health, welcome your new pet with the right foods packed with proper nutrients, and feed them appropriately for their age and size to keep them growing happy and healthy.
Purina veterinarian Dr. Callie Harris, D.V.M., and senior feeding behavior expert at Purina Dr. Annie Valuska, Ph.D., offer tips for keeping your new puppy or kitten well-fed and healthy.
Feeding your new puppy
High-quality, complete and balanced puppy food is crucial for giving your pup the nutrition they need for a head start toward a lifetime of good health.
"Puppies need 25% more protein, 54% more fat and 140% more calcium than adult dogs," said Harris. "That’s why feeding your puppy a food that is formulated especially for puppies is vital for their rapid growth and development."
Puppy food contains vital nutrients including protein, omega fatty acids and calcium needed for a puppy’s development. And kibble size is important too; puppy food has a smaller kibble size designed for smaller mouths.
How long do you feed puppy food, and how much?
The amount of food your puppy needs depends on how much they’ll weigh when they mature. "A Labrador retriever weighs more at maturity than a Russell terrier, so the larger breed dog requires more food as a puppy," explained Harris.
While most puppies need puppy food approximately 12 months, larger breeds need puppy food up to 24 months. Large breed dogs have bigger bones that take longer to mature, and they also have a higher risk of joint problems as adults. Feeding large breed-specific puppy food can help support their joint health and mobility into adulthood. Connecting with your puppy’s veterinarian will ensure you’re feeding your new pup appropriately for their breed.
Visit Purina.com/Puppy for a chart on how much to feed your puppy. Always review instructions on your puppy’s food bag and consult your veterinarian with questions about your puppy’s diet.
How should you feed your puppy?
"Choose a quiet place for your puppy's food and water bowls," said Valuska. "Feed them away from distractions and temptations like food prep areas."
Give your puppy three equal-sized meals daily, based on their caloric requirement. Feed the same amounts of food at the same times each day to keep their digestive system regular — and make housetraining easier. Avoid overfeeding, which can lead to weight gain and other health problems. That includes treats, which should comprise no more than 10% of their daily caloric intake.
Visit Purina.com/Puppy for more information and to explore several wet and dry puppy food options.
Feeding your new kitten
Did you know cats are generally considered kittens for the first 12 months of their life? It's important that they be fed kitten food for that first full year to ensure a solid foundation of good health throughout their lives.
While a vast majority (91%) of kitten owners recently surveyed by Purina said they believed the food they feed their kitten will impact their health throughout their life, less than half ranked feeding kitten food for a full year as important, partly because only 20% realized cats are kittens for 12 whole months. To ensure that your kitten will be healthy now and throughout its adult life, it’s essential to continue feeding kitten food for that entire first year.
Kittens have specific nutritional needs best met by formulas designed just for kittens. Before bringing your new kitten home, have quality food ready that provides the nutrients they need, including calcium, protein and linoleic acid.
"Kittens begin eating solid food around 4-6 weeks as they're weaning," said Harris. "A great way to ensure young kittens get the nutrients necessary for their growth and development during this transition is to give them wet food."
How should you feed your kitten?
Harris recommends feeding kittens a combination of wet and dry food. They will get plenty of moisture from the wet food to help support healthy hydration, plus potential dental benefits from crunchy kibble in dry food, helping reduce plaque and tartar buildup.
"Cats are creatures of habit," said Valuska. "So feed your kitten at the same times and in the same quiet place every day."
Always follow feeding instructions and measure the proper amount according to the cat food package. Whenever you transition from one food to another, such as from kitten to adult food, do this gradually over the course of 10-14 days by slowly increasing the amount of new food and decreasing the amount of old food to avoid digestive problems.
Check out Purina.com/kitten for more tips and to explore several wet and dry kitten food options.